The healing power of friendship

I’ve been through some tough old times these last few years. I didn’t realise quite how much having a good, solid network of friends to rely on would mean to me. Friends tend to come and go, a couple of years ago I met a whole bunch of new friends through Twitter; when I couldn’t leave the house and was bedridden, these were the people who I’d chat to at 3am because I was in pain and needed distracting. These were the people who kept my spirits up through the long, hazy days and nights when I was dosed up on pain killers, or having a panic attack about my next surgery. These people kept me sane, or closer to sane than I would’ve been without them.

Two years on I’m still more or less in the same group of friends. We’ve all changed, grown up a bit, moved on or moved away; but when times are tough we rally round and look after each other, which is how it should be. My physical pain, is now classed as chronic and is usually at a level I can cope with. Sometimes though I am overwhelmed with emotional pain, depression, anxiety, just blind panic. It is  my friends I turn to for support and for calm.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who love me and understand me better than anyone. Friends like my BFF Bobble who always knows the right thing to say to stop me mid-meltdown, or make me laugh when I’m crying. Another friend Daisy knows me inside out and keeps an eye on me, even when I think she’s not looking. Liz offers pints and bar snacks (better than tea and sympathy).  Jon is like Yoda only taller, less green and understands how sentences should be properly structured. Guy offers sensible and sage advice. And Lou tells me to think about donkeys – it’s physically impossible to cry when you think about donkeys, try it.

These are only a few of the awesome people I call my friends. Each one has held my head above the water a whole bunch of times, each one has gently persuaded me back from the edge, each one I’ve laughed with and love more than they’ll know. My friends, my friendships are healing me. Slowly, quietly, most definitely they are helping me grow stronger and more able to stand by myself.

I like the unnamed people who check in on me daily, weekly, whatever, just to see how I’m coping and if I’m ok; the kind people who comment on my blog; plus other friends and acquaintances from real life, the close “mum” friends I’ve made in Jane, Liz, Carla, Rachael and Sarah (amongst others). And my husband, my best friend for the last 20 years, who understands what it means when the light in my eyes changes and has seen me at my very worst. Collectively the healing power of friendship is huge, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

To my friends, I love you, thank you for throwing me a life belt and for helping me to grow a little bit stronger every day.

It’s the International Day of Friendship on the 31st July 2015, which seems a pretty good excuse to celebrate the brilliant friends that you’ve got and to tell them what they mean to you.

the healing power of friendshipThis post was written in collaboration with TheCircle.

Only child. Lonely child?

When we had our son in November 2010 we fell completely in love with him. I knew the moment I held my bundle of gorgeousness that I wanted another baby. We talked about it, decided to give it a year or so and then get cracking with giving him a little brother or sister.

Fate then stepped in and after an accident and a couple of surgeries my back is too ruined now to even consider getting pregnant. Even if I spent 9 months in bed, I’d still have to do all the lifting and bending that comes with a baby. Sooner or later I’d be in a wheelchair and my children would become my carers.

I can’t have any more children and my son will be an only child.
Only child

I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently and worrying that he’s lonely, it hit me today when we took him to the playground and he met a little boy, they hit it off immediately and spent nearly an hour chasing each other, rolling around and laughing. It was really wonderful to see.

I can’t shake the feeling that he’s missing out on something, that being an only child deprives him of all kinds of childhood joy. There is a voice in my head which tells me that because he’s an only child he’ll get more of us and he’ll get spoilt more for sure, but he’ll also get more focussed attention with homework and play as well as discipline.

He’s at school now so his days aren’t lonely, his weekends are pretty packed with things we do together as a family and I don’t think he’s quite as lonely as he used to be, though he probably was when it was just me and him at home.

I worry that because he’s an only child this will adversely affect his confidence with his peers, though he’s usually very forthcoming with adults. Maybe I worry to much.

I’ve got a little brother, he’s two years younger, we got on, we played together but we were not best friends and we had frequent arguments and falling outs. But we’d always look out for each other in the playground and I’d muscle in to warn the big boys off if he needed it. But having a sibling is probably no real guarantee that you won’t be lonely.

In a few months we’ll be getting a puppy. When we got our first dog I got a best friend and a constant companion, he loves dogs and I think they’ll be inseparable. I know it’s not the same, we’re doing everything we can to stop him feeling lonely, lots of play dates, lots of special time with mummy and daddy. I hope it’s enough. I hope he never feels lonely and alone, because he isn’t.

My Role Model

When you’re growing up, a lot of emphasis is put on having a role model. Someone you can look up to and aspire to be like; someone you can turn to with your troubles; someone who will praise you when it’s due.

For me, my role model (along with the rest of the school) was Mr Singh (RIP). He was my form tutor when I was 13. He was a chemistry teacher; he played in a band, went on Family Fortunes and was possibly the coolest, funniest man I’ve ever met. We all adored him. But he left at the end of the year, went on to bigger and better things, then sadly passed away at a depressingly young age.

Really your parents should be your role models and I think mine were for a while. Then I discovered their flaws and limitations. They also weren’t big on praise, problem solving or pushing yourself to achieve greatness. They tried, I’ll give them that.

After Mr Singh no one really stuck as a role model. People came into my life, nurtured me a little, then moved on. I had a couple of decent bosses who did what they could to push me forward, a few friends who encouraged me, but no one really slotting into that role model/mentor role that I craved and needed.

I know I’m constantly banging on about my brilliant husband. But he is well, brilliant. He’s not my role model though, but I hope very much that our son will look at him that way. He is wise, loving, patient, caring, hardworking and an all round good great amazing guy.

I’ve been massively lucky to stumble across some incredible people recently. Some top local bloggers have taken me under their wings, offering advice, guidance, contacts and some really fun plus one invitations. There are a couple of lads off Twitter who are refreshingly down to earth, and stop me being an idiot, whilst at the same time loving and caring for me as a brother would. I know I’m lucky, seriously amazing friends like that are hard to find.

I’m even luckier because I’ve found someone who’ll step into Mr Singh’s shoes. One of my recently acquired chums, (I will call him Dave because that’s his name) is a proper, stand up guy. He comes husband approved and is determined to make me stand on my own two feet and be the person he and everyone else knows I can be.

He’s currently trying to get me to write a novel. He believes in my writing and is determined to pull a book out of me. I’m not convinced, but he is, so I know it’ll happen one way or another. It’s great to have someone else apart from my husband, behind me who truly believes in me and helps me to clear any obstacles, real or imagined from my path. He’s no pushover and he challenges me if I try and make excuses.

He’s like a father, friend, editor, teacher and mentor rolled into one. He’s got a good job, isn’t a weirdo, he’s just a decent bloke who probably read Pygmalion at an early age and fancies himself as a bit of a Henry Higgins type.

I’ve floated aimlessly through life for years so it’s great to finally have a mentor, especially after the year I’ve had. I need someone not close to me to tell me my value, what my gifts are and to push me forward instead of me constantly taking a step back. I’m bored of hiding my light under a bushel, thanks to Dave and my wonderful husband and friends it’s my time to shine.

photo (47) (200x64)

Just Ok

I don’t need your validation.

Recently I’ve been meeting a good number of my fabulous Twitter friends who have supported me over the past few months, I’ve got on famously with them all and had some really great times. But…

When you meet someone you admire and respect. Someone worldly and intelligent they can turn your head, make you think differently and view your place in the world from another perspective. That is usually a really good thing.

You admire them greatly, this wonderful charismatic friend who shares so much in common with you but broadens your horizons and helps to underpin some of your flagging self esteem. And then you meet them and they are as great as you think they’ll be.

But they know everything about me. I’ve poured my soul out to a select group of online friends over the past few months and they know my vulnerabilities and the chinks in my armour. They know how to wound, they know how fragile I can be.

I met up with a friend, a wonderfully supportive and open friend. They said I was ok. What the hell is that? Ok? I thought they were amazing and good company and said so. I’m just ok. Well I guess that’s me. Just ok. I’ve brooded on that for a few days. Just ok.

Tonight my husband shot me a look which said that I wasn’t just ok that I was his world. That’s all the validation I need. There is a caveat. That is all the validation I need when I’m calm and happy. But otherwise I’ll probably continue to brood on being just ok.